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CAPITOL VIEW: Nebraska State Education Association, Gov. Heineman have strain in relationship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 26 May 2011 20:03

Politics makes strange bed fellows, goes the old saying.

That bed fellows aren’t always happy together should be the second part of that axiom.

Take the Nebraska State Education Association, for example. The NSEA, known generically as the state teachers’ union, might feel like it got taken by Gov. Dave Heineman.

As a longtime political mentor used to say: “Hard cheese, pal.”

The NSEA endorsed Heineman when he made his first bid for governor, and again when he sought re-election.

The association would certainly have preferred a candidate with credentials somewhat less conservative, but there weren’t any in either race who stood a chance against the longtime Republican.

Political reality: Any interest group knows that sometimes you endorse the governor yer gonna’ git, because you aren’t going to get the governor you want. Disclaimers from any interest group concerning that reality are piffle. Why insult a guy who is going to win? Politicians have notoriously long memories.

Heineman conservative or not, didn’t have a truly bad record on K-12 education; and in some instances it was pretty good.

For example: Last year a bunch of school boards reacted like giraffes eating razor blades when Heineman said it seemed to him that school administrators seemed to be getting hefty raises, but teacher salaries weren’t making comparable progress, despite increased aid to education. The NSEA was as happy as it should have been.

Then came 2011.

Heineman gave the NSEA double-barreled fits.

He literally demanded changes in labor law that would give state and local government the upper hand in negotiating with unionized public employees, including teachers.

Then he signed, despite his acknowledged reservations, a bill guaranteeing some $65 million annually to state, county and city roads projects – with the money to come, for the first time ever, from state sales tax dollars.

That means education, and every other eligible interest, will be vying for a pot of state dollars that will annually be $65 million smaller than it otherwise would be.

Lobbyists will be working overtime.

Local government entities may be hollering even louder, if such is possible, that they cannot possibly stand any more reductions in their share of funding. They have even been denied the right, so far, to go to voters and seek an increased, maximum rate on local sales taxes.

Nebraskans, taking one with another, have long seemed ready to reduce state government spending – except for those dollars aimed at helping to hold down local property taxes.

And when it comes to political risks for gubernatorial candidates who espouse reduced spending these days, there don’t appear to be any.

And thus Heineman, or any other chief executive, can look at education leaders, unions and just about anyone else and say: “Who needs you?”


ED HOWARD is the statehouse correspondent for the Nebraska Press Association.